Bend-La Pine Schools is asking the state to reconsider the ‘absurd’ rules for quarantining students because they’re causing massive disruptions to learning and putting the district’s ability to maintain in-person instruction at risk.
In the letter, signed by all seven members of the school board, the district says it understands quarantining is an important part of public health.
But it believes Oregon has some of the strictest COVID-related quarantining rules in the country – and some of the rules make no sense.
“This far into the pandemic, we find it absurd that current quarantine guidelines don’t differentiate between possible exposure indoors vs outdoors, or whether masks were worn or not,” the letter said. “For example, possible exposure outdoors with masks should not lead to quarantine, while a possible exposure indoors without masks should.”
About 800 Bend-La Pine students are currently quarantined due to COVID exposure and tracing.
In some cases, entire elementary classes are in quarantine, which has forced a temporary return to online learning.
And earlier this week the district announced it was altering middle and high school schedules to allow teachers more time at the end of the day to work with students struggling due to the quarantine.
The district has reported 129 COVID cases in the last 28 days.
But of those quarantined for possible exposure, only a handful have then tested positive themselves, according to the district.
Board members said students shouldn’t be quarantined if they’ve been vaccinated, don’t have any symptoms, and haven’t had a recently confirmed case of COVID.
“Finally, “close contacts” should be reduced from 6’ to 3’ in order to match the updated guidance for physical distancing,” the letter said. “If students are approved to be within 3’ of each other, quarantining shouldn’t be required for contacts within 6’. We’re not epidemiologists, but we implore our public health authorities to not be overly aggressive with quarantining requirements.”
The board sent the letter to the Oregon Department of Education, Gov. Kate Brown and the Oregon Health Authority.
“Excessive quarantining is putting our ability to maintain full-time in-person learning at risk, and we must address it,” the letter said. “School is essential and safe and we should be able to remain open, with full academic instruction provided to our students.”
You can read the full letter below.Letter to Brown and Gill